When you hit the right weather, a summer holiday in Scotland can be the best thing in the world.
With its sublime natural beauty, inspiring history and an undying devotion to good food and drink, where else would you rather be?
Here we look at five of the best summer holiday destinations Scotland has to offer. There are, of course, many more.
THere is no reason not to go to any of Scotland’s islands but there is something that lingers long about Islay. Time slows right down here and I’m pretty sure people become the best versions of themselves when they arrive here. It might have something to do with the whisky - it is home to eight distilleries with more planned - or the openness of the island that offers beaches, wildlife and fantastic hospitality.
There are plenty holiday homes to choose from but some nice hotels too such as the traditional-music loving Port Charlotte Hotel to the west of the island, or The Old Excise House to the east, which is really just a good walk to the home of fine malts Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.
Take a walk or a horse ride at Machrie Bay for some wild Atlantic action and, if you have a camp stove, buy some scallops or prawns at a good price from Islay Crab Exports near the airport and fry them up al fresco while the kids - young and old - play in the endless sands. A drive down to Portnahaven is a must. An Tigh Seinne serves up good hot food and a nice pint. Once you have polished that off, you can sit and watch the seals bob about in the harbour.
ARISAIG AND THE ROAD TO THE ISLES
Never has a little village offered so much. Set yourself down in Arisaig for a week’s holiday and you will feel like you have been away for two. This village sits in the heart of one of Scotland’s most beautiful and interesting spots. On a summer’s day, wake up to the sun over the water and the gorgeous views ahead to the small isles of Eigg, Muck and Rum. A boat from Arisaig Marine will take you to all three on a day trip. Back on dry land and there is much to do. Head back the way you came to Glenfinnan Monument, one of the finest landmarks in Scotland at the head of Loch Shiel where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the standard in 1745. You might also catch a glimpse of The Jacobite steam train, which takes you right down to Mallaig, which is also worth a visit. However, an absolute must is a day at the Silver Sands of Morar, a beach so pure and lovely that once stepped upon, it is truly never forgotten.
STIRLING, THE TROSSACHS AND LOCH LOMOND
Stirling is perhaps all too often overlooked as a destination, but it really shouldn’t be given its starring role in Scottish history. Walk up the winding, cobbled streets of the old town and you’ll get a real sense of the past. At the top you’ll find Stirling Castle sitting high over the city on volcanic rock, with three battles fought not far away. There is also the National Wallace Monument to visit, a grander statement to a hero countryman you may not find.
Once you have had your history fix, head west to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, where small, pretty towns such as Aberfoyle and Callendar sit amongst lochs, mountains and forests. Dump the car and hire a bike from Callendar’s Wheels Cycling Centre or pull on your walking shoes and explore the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and the many other trails that lead you through this fine area of dramatic terrain. A pleasant afternoon can also be spent on the Sir Walter Scott steamship on Loch Katrine.
Push a little further west and you will soon be at Loch Lomond. No trip to this part of the world would be complete without standing on its bonnie banks.
THE MORAY COASTAL TRAIL
More sun is said to shine on the Moray coast than anywhere else in Scotland. With warmer-than-average temperatures recorded, it hashas been a popular holidays spot since Victorian times. Its balmy weather and long, sandy beaches have also caught the eye of National Geographic, which has named the coastal stretch between Inverness and Peterhead as one of the best in the world. Burghead Bay is a lovely curved bay stretching 11 miles from Findhorn beach to Burghead but there are many other fine spots along the coast, where sailing is a way of life.
The Moray Firth is also hailed for its healthy population of bottlenose dolphins and Minke whales with boat tours such as those run by North 58 Sea Adventures ferrying visitors close to the action. Nairn, Troup Head and Hopeman are amongst the best places to catch the mammals. Hopeman is also known for its highly-coveted brightly painted beach huts - perfect ice cream and deckchair territory.
You are also just at the tip of Speyside whisky country should you fancy a change of scene.
OUTER HEBRIDES ISLAND HOP
Ah the twinkling blue seas and the white sands of the Outer Hebrides. Many say, when the sun is shining on these westerly isles, you could be in the Caribbean. Now I have never been there, but its true a piece of paradise is created when the light is bright in this part of the world.
Calmac Ferries does a hopscotch ticket which will take you from Oban to Barra, Uist, Harris and Lewis before sailing back to Ullapool. It has got to be one of those bucket list trips, such is the special atmosphere and beauty of the islands - and the untainted way of life you will discover here.
In Barra, sea kayaking is worth a shot given the shallow waters and sheltered bays. You will also find here Kisimul Castle, the only survivng Medieval castle around. On Harris, you’ll find the famous Luskentyre beach, one of the best you’ll ever see.
The Standing Stones of Calanais on Lewis, thought to date back to 3,000 BC, one of Scotland’s major prehistoric site, also cannot be missed.